No short cuts for Nina
- Maridol Rañoa-Bismark () - January 27, 2004 - 12:00am
At a time when singing stars pop up almost overnight, Nina has proven there’s still no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work in hitting the goldmine.

Here is one person who didn’t rely on a backer, nor the power of a name that commanded instant recall in the biz, to get started. Nina had it in her since Day One. Best of all, she knew it.

At 12, she trained at Center for Pop Music Philippines, where its founder and president, Butch Albarracin, seeing her potential, personally guided her.

Albarracin called her the "Whistle Girl" because Nina happened to be his only student ( he has trained Sarah Geronimo, Geneva Cruz, Nyoy Volante, Dessa, Roselle Nava and Erik Santos) who whistles her songs.

In fact, Nina always sang Mariah Carey’s Emotions using her whistle voice. Albarracin, recognizing talent when he sees one, knew she will someday be a standout.

But there was a hitch. Gifted as she was, Nina was painfully shy. She was also prone to hoarseness — a no-no for singers on stage. Something had to be done.

The year after she enrolled at Center for Pop Music, Albarracin included Nina in the all-female trio called Centermates (one of the original members was Roselle Nava) , where he developed Nina’s ear for blending.

At 17, Nina was already a team player where performing with other singers is concerned. She joined prestigious bands like XS, Big Thing, MYMP, Silk and Essence while finishing an Accounting course at Miriam College. She graduated from the course but fell short of taking the board exams because of her hectic singing schedule.

It was a tough- studying during daytime and playing with the band at night, but Nina had a promise to keep. She vowed to her parents, especially to her late Dad, that she will finish her studies, no matter what.

Now, merely three years into the music scene, she has no regrets. In fact, the discipline and values school instilled in her are paying off handsomely.

Even with rave reviews for her smash hit Jealous, titles such as MTV Pilipinas’ Artist of the Year, for 2003, RX 93.1’s OPM Female Artist of the Year and Candy Rap Award’s Favorite Female Artist, success has hardly changed Nina.

Sure, her songs are heard all over the place. Jealous, Loving You and Foolish Heart, her debut album, went beyond platinum. Magic 89.9, which named Nina Local Artist of the Year, also declared Jealous OPM Song of the Year.

That’s not all. Magic 89.9 has an ongoing I Love Nina special, a tribute to the artist otherwise known as the Soul Siren for 2003.

Nina sees her blessings as doors can open opportunities for her to inspire others. And her mentor, Butch Albarracin, is keeping those doors wide open for her. He has endorsed her selection as the Center for Pop Music Philippines’ "Singing Ambassador of Goodwill."

As such, Nina will do the rounds of charitable institutions, like orphanages, homes for the aged and others, spreading the message of goodwill through song. The first of the shows in this campaign will be today at the Baluarte Plana Luneta de Sta. Isabel entertainment area in Intramuros.

The free show, dubbed Fly High, Nina, guests her brother King. It will also kick off the Center for Pop’s 20th anniversary celebration. It will see Nina performing her hits and new songs from her album Smile, plus production numbers with Center for Pop students.

There’s no resting for Nina after the show, as she collides head-on with foreign acts in a Valentine concert at the Folk Arts Theater no less. Nina, Strings of the Heart on Feb. 14 will not only showcase Nina’s singing talent, but her dancing skills as well.

Spicing up the concert are Carlos Agassi’s rap number, Luke Mejares’ highly-charged song-and-dance number and King’s duet with Star in a Million runner-up Sheryn Regis.

The prospect of competing against foreign acts hardly fazes Nina.

"Their market is different," she says. "We’re looking at the texting generation, mga gumigimik, young lovers and those who were young once," Nina speaks for her producers, ArianWorks Management Corporation.

The spunky Nina does have every reason to say cheese, okay, Smile, her 12-track album from Warner Music Philippines that consists of revivals and original songs.

For someone who took no shortcuts to success, that’s victory with a capital V.

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